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RT: We are joined now live by Srdja Trifkovic, foreign-affairs editor for Chronicles magazine. A Washington spokesman has called the latest Israeli action "contrary to U.S. policy." What about the state of relations between the two countries?
ST: This Administration is widely perceived as the least pro-Israeli administration in history. The problem is that Netanyahu is scoring domestic points: he is definitely positioning this move as a bid for victory in January, while risking the loss of some friends of Israel on Capitol Hill who have been very staunch and reliable so far. If he is serious about the project, it would effectively cut Judea from Samaria, as the Israelis call them. It would cut the West Bank into two halves. Such a strategic geopolitical move would have long-term consequences in the sense that there would be no two-state solution. If Netanyahu means it, if he builds, it will no longer be possible to travel from Ramallah to Hebron, it will no longer be possible for the Palestinian authority—even in its West Bank pocked—to be a coherent entity. My sense is that Netanyahu is on a slippery slope. If and when this project goes ahead, that means he'll try to impose on the United States a fait accompli, but with this Administration it may prove to be very tricky.
RT: During the U.S. election Netanyahu was strongly backing the Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Now with Obama back in office, what in your opinion are Netanyahu's thoughts?
ST: He is trying to mobilize the pro-Israeli opinion in the United States, knowing full well that this latest move is risky and that even within the Democratic Party it may backfire. But he doesn't care for as long as he wins in January. If he is successful, if he is victorious, he will present the U.S. with a new fait accompli and he will hope that whatever happens, the U.S. friends of Israel would respond and say, "Look, this is a done deal!" He is very upset about the UN vote and he needs to show to his domestic audience that he is on top of the game. This project is his ace in the sleeve. In the long run it means that the dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis is not going to happen. It hasn't happened for four years. If this construction goes ahead, the "peace process," alas, is dead.
RT: I'd like to shift gears to Iran. Israel has drawn a red line on that country's nuclear program. Netanyahu famously did so with a cartoon at his UN address. What kind of backing from Washington do you think he can get on that at the moment?
ST: Not much, because Obama is focused on the domestic change in the U.S.—on the amnesty, which is coming, on the health system, and generally on the redistributionist agenda of turning the U.S. into a socialist republic. So any foreign entanglement, the neocon agenda of conflict with Russia, resetting the "reset," bombing Iran... is a distraction from what Obama sees as his primary mandate in the second term, which is to turn the United States into a country that is defined by his propositional values, antidiscriminationsm, "tolerance"...To that end he is prepared to draw back from active global interventionism. The neocons accuse him of softness, but that is his key agenda.
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